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I love helping others by volunteering, but I’ve also gained a lot from the experience

Fiona has been volunteering with Breast Cancer Now’s Here For You service since February, and has found it to be fulfilling in ways she didn’t expect.

Fiona has been volunteering with Breast Cancer Now’s Here For You service since February, and has found it to be fulfilling in ways she didn’t expect. 

I love my job and my role in developing post-surgery bras  

I work in Marks and Spencer Lingerie, leading the technical department. They are the team who develop our fit and sizing, and who work closely with our designers to make sure our product is properly made.  

M&S and Breast Cancer Now have a long-standing partnership; Breast Cancer Now help and advise us as we develop post-surgery bras, and we support by fundraising through our stores.  

As you can imagine, it’s quite a full-on job with very little downtime and yet - as I grow older and start having one eye on the future - I have been thinking that I would like to do something more ‘worthwhile’; something where I felt I was giving back and which would push me outside of my comfort zone. 

I have looked at a number of volunteering options, but many of them ask for more time that I can commit. So, when Breast Cancer Now reached out to M&S asking if any of our teams would like to consider volunteering for the Here For You service, I was intrigued. 

You don’t need personal experience of breast cancer to volunteer 

Here For You is a telephone service, and it’s our role as volunteers to call service-users who have recently been referred to us by their clinicians following a breast cancer diagnosis.  

Typically, volunteers can expect to make one to three calls per week, with each call taking between 15-30 minutes and then a very simple few minutes of admin afterwards. This suits me perfectly, as I can fit it around my work easily. 

I was unsure if I would be suitable for the role as I have no personal experience of breast cancer, but I applied anyway and - after an interview - was pleased to be accepted onto the training programme. 

As someone who works in a fairly senior position in a large company, I was surprised at how nervous I felt going into this, but there was no need. The team conducting the training were great, put us all at ease and made asking questions easy.  

Volunteering has helped me both personally and professionally 

It's a rewarding role: we are the first point of contact with Breast Cancer Now, and often the clients just need someone who listens to them and then can offer some support from the various services offered.  

I have spoken with people who are completely alone and need a lot of support, and people who feel like they are doing fine with their family and friends.  

The one thing they all have in common is that they are pleased that I called and - in every instance - I have been thanked at the end of the call, even when I have been wishing I could do more for the service user. 

Volunteering in this way has been good for me both personally and professionally. Professionally, I have benefited from training that helped me better understand breast cancer (which I hope, in turn, will help us to develop better products for our customers). Personally, I have learnt the importance of listening, of really hearing what someone is saying to me, which is a valuable lesson both in my family life and in managing my team at work. 

I recommend volunteering to anyone else involved with Breast Cancer Now 

I would recommend to any other corporate partners to really encourage your teams to get involved with volunteering, as the skills they will learn will benefit your organisation as well as the charity.  

I think you will also find that people who volunteer even in the small capacity that I am will then be more invested in the corporate partnership, and will work hard to ensure it’s a success. 

I would also encourage other people like me who worry about the time commitment to consider this as an option. It’s very flexible and hugely rewarding. It has also led me into volunteering as a steward at one of the Pink Ribbon Walks this year, which I am really looking forward to! From everything I have read I will have a fabulous day and meet some really inspiring people. 

I am so pleased that I applied for this role, as I have learned new skills, overcome my fears about not being qualified, and met some fabulous people. And to top all of that, I feel as though I am really helping someone when they need it most, which is a fantastic feeling to have. 

I would recommend that anyone who is interested in volunteering to give it a try; the Breast Cancer Now team are hugely supportive and friendly, and you really will feel part of something good.

 

If you're interested in becoming a Here For You volunteer, we are currently recruiting for the role. 

Apply to be a volunteer

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